Denver’s $4 billion budget for 2024 includes more rental assistance, more cops and more street safety money | #schoolsaftey

That includes more than $14 million in stuff City Council insisted on.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver’s 2024 budget is set after City Council unanimously passed Mayor Mike Johnston’s plan for spending more than $4 billion on Monday. It’s the first budget from a new mayor in 12 years.

The biggest change in this year’s budget is less what’s in it and more the process — City Council used its limited leverage to push through more than $14 million in amendments, compared to $1 million last year.

In partnership with activists, City Council used a veto-proof majority to pass an additional $13.5 million in rental assistance and bring the total to nearly $30 million — something Johnston would not commit to at the start of the budget process. He initially offered Council an extra $3 million for renters at risk of homelessness, on top of the original $12.6 million in the budget.

That original funding proposal increased the city’s commitment to rental assistance by nearly $9 million, but with federal pandemic funds drying up, overall assistance levels were lower than during the pandemic. While Council and advocates pushed Johnston for more assistance, eviction filings hit record levels and one of the city-affiliated assistance funds closed applications after running out of money.

“What you saw in this budget process was a new Mayor, about 50% new Council digging in during just a really, really difficult budget context for a city,” said Councilmember Sarah Parady, who led the rental assistance efforts along with Councilmembers Shontel Lewis, Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, Paul Kashmann and Stacie Gilmore. “I’m really proud of the work that Council as a body did on this budget. I think having all 13 of us coming together behind one of the most urgent needs in our city as co-sponsors, was, I don’t want to say unprecedented, necessarily, but it felt big.”

City Council also passed $1 million in amendments for transportation safety initiatives, including the Safe Routes to School program, and secured extra money for Denver Health and the Denver Basic Income Project.

Johnston’s budget also includes money for things like growing Denver’s police force, expanding the police alternative Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program and maintaining Denver’s e-bike voucher program.

“I’m proud that this budget passed with unanimous support thanks to the continuous collaboration and dedication from City Council, showing what is possible when we work shoulder-to-shoulder to make a Denver a safe, affordable, and vibrant city for all,” said Mayor Mike Johnston. “Every budget is a moral document, and our 2024 budget reflects Denverites’ values and priorities – from affordable housing and homelessness to downtown revitalization and public safety.”

Budgeting for the city’s migrant response remains unclear.

Johnston is pushing the federal government for more money. City officials said they originally planned for $20 million to start next year, but that they have already had to recalculate that prediction as arrivals have spiked throughout the fall.

Other proposals from City Council, such as repurposing police money for even more STAR money, buying back medical debt and extra funding for youth violence programs did not make it into the final budget.

“I will be voting in favor of this year’s budget, but it does not do what we need our budget to do,” Kashmann said. “We simply need more money. We need to be investing far more heavily on the social social programs that impact public health and public safety, mental health, drug treatment, after school programs.”

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